GreedI started reading Elfriede Jelinek’s novel, Greed, and almost immediately was confused. The indirect narration by shifting narrators is hard to follow and in this novel there is very little direct exposition: everything is cloaked by the opinions of the narrator and even (fiction wise) by occasional authorial interjection. Two things helped me out: first I related the novel to novels by Robert Pinget whom I had already struggled with and conquered to some extent (also authors such as Joseph McElroy and Samuel Beckett); second, I read the publisher’s blurb on the novel and it gave me just enough of an insight into the narrative so as to keep me reading in the right spirit.

Here is that little summary:

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Followup on Nobel Prize


Announced today, the recipient of the 2013 Nobel Prize for Literature is Alice Munro. Not my choice but still a reasonable one (no, Bob Dylan wasn’t my choice). Did you expect a different result?

I made a comment in my earlier post suggesting that the Nobel Prize seemed to pass over too many great names in literature, enough so that one might question the importance of the prize. Several others have expressed similar views. However, if you stop and consider the complexity of the task, it might be better to continue honoring the esteem of the Nobel selections for literature. Why?

This is what ran through my head when considering the granting of the prize:

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Nobel Literature Prize

The 53rd Annual GRAMMY Awards - ShowThe Nobel laureates are being announced and there is plenty of news surrounding the upcoming Nobel Prize for Literature. Who will it be?

The Daily Beast has provided a rather exhaustive list of candidates and to emphasize the artistic credentials of these esteemed writers, have even included the odds for winning the prize as posted by the bookies. Hey, if you might win a prize for writing a book, wouldn’t it be natural for a bookie to be involved in the decision?

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Red Sorghum

yanMany readers of Mo Yan’s award-winning novel, Red Sorghum, will not be familiar with sorghum even though it is one of the major cereal grains grown around the world. However, if you’re from the South, sweet sorghum (which we called sorghum molasses) might actually be a staple: hot biscuits with sorghum syrup for breakfast being a favorite. But in Mo Yan’s novel, sorghum is the major crop, sustaining entire villages in northern China early in the previous century. It is also the central image in the novel, symbolic of life and grow but also death and suffering.

The focus in Red Sorghum is the war in China against the invading Japanese that occurred in the 1930s. But it is also the story of a poor agrarian society, ruled by a feudal system and fearing local bandits, that is struggling to stay alive and also to move slowly into the Twentieth-Century. Told through an often confusing series of narrations and digressions, Red Sorghum spans three generation of a family in this rural society. From attacking the Japanese at a bridge to overpowering a rival bandit gang to improving the quality of the sorghum wine by pissing in the pot, Mo Yan’s novel is always interesting and you have a strong sense of the history of these people and, by extension, of the country.

Please read this novel. It is often brutal but also beautiful and lyrical. It will certainly convince you that the author deserves the honor of the Nobel Prize in Literature for 2012. As the academy wrote of Mo Yan:

“who with hallucinatory realism merges folk tales, history and the contemporary.”